Young South Florida undocumented immigrants potentially headed for deportation in less than five months unless some political compromise can be worked out in Congress were left befuddled but defiant — and maybe worried, too — at a list of demands released as the price of a deal over the weekend by President Donald Trump’s White House.
“I was very disappointed with the deal that was offered, if you can even call it a deal,” said Elias Rosenfeld, a student at Brandeis University in Massachusetts who calls Aventura home. “It’s just completely unfair. I think it’s a poison pill, intended so that no real deal is reached.”
Rosenfeld is one of an estimated 800,000 young immigrants brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents. They were protected from deportation — and, mostly allowed to work and go to school — by an executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
President Trump rescinded the order in September and gave Congress six months to come up with a replacement before the Department of Homeland Security would start deporting DACA-protected immigrants.
But on Sunday, the White House released a large package of sweeping anti-immigrations reforms it said would be necessary before DACA could be extended. The measures ranged from funding to build a wall across the U.S. border with Mexico to making the now-voluntary E-Verify program that businesses use to screen out job applications from undocumented immigrants.
DACA beneficiaries and their legal and political advocates who spoke to the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald on Monday all said Trump’s demands would kill any hope of compromise.
“There’s no way he can seriously believe we would accept all this,” said Rosenfeld, a 20-year-old majoring in sociology and political science at Brandeis. “He’s just playing political football with 800,000 lives.”
Some of DACA beneficiaries said supporting the White House proposals would amount to selling out other immigrants. “What the Trump administration is doing is trying to implement their entire anti-immigrant agenda in exchange for something that would only benefit [DACA beneficiaries] and no one else,” said Juan Escalante, 28, who came to the United States from from Venezuela when he was 11.
“For me, something that puts my family’s safety at risk so that I can be protected is not something that I would be willing to negotiate. My parents work hard every day to keep a roof over their heads, pay taxes and be contributing members of their community. They don’t deserve to be at a higher risk of deportation to Venezuela.”
Armando Carrada, who was 7 when his family came to the United States and now owns a photography business in Homestead, said the proposals would force his family into an immigration version of “Sophie’s Choice” in which some could stay but others would have to go.
“What they [the Trump administration] are trying to do is help people like me but while criminalizing my mother,” he mused. “My mother will be at a higher risk of being deported so that I can be saved.”
Some of the young immigrants said they could accept a certain amount of compromise measure in order to protect DACA. But their ideas — mostly funding for additional security (though not a wall) on the Mexican border — fell far, far short of what Trump is asking.
Others, citing support for DACA in opinion polls, said Trump’s opponents in Congress should strike a hard line. “There can be no dialogue if the White House wants everything and to give us the crumbs,” said Escalante.
But dismissing Trump’s demands comes with a price, said Miami immigration attorney Tammy Fox-Isicoff, who noted that the clock is ticking on possible deportations of DACA beneficiaries, which could being in March if no deal is reached.
“I’ve been talking to colleagues all day long on this,” Fox-Isicoff said Monday afternoon. “What does this mean? You just don’t know with Trump. Do we take this at face value? Or is it a bargaining position. And if it’s a bargaining position, is it his starting position, his final position, or what?...
“I think if I were a DACA beneficiary, I would be depressed today.”
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Nora Gámez Torres contributed to this report.
White House demands for a DACA deal
Border Wall: Ensure funding for the southern border wall and its infrastructure.
Unaccompanied Minors: Changing the law to permit quick returns to their home countries of unaccompanied minors.
Asylum Reform: Correcting problems that created a backlog of more than 500,000 pending asylum cases.
Ensure Swift Border Returns: Providing additional resources to reduce the immigration court backlog and ensure swift return of illegal border crossers.
Inadmissible migrants: Expanding the criteria that render undocumented immigrants inadmissible and ensure that they are maintained in continuous custody until deportation.
Discourage Illegal Re-entry: Increasing penalties for repeat illegal border crossers and those with prior deportations.
Funding for Partner Nations: Funding Latin America efforts to curb northbound migration flows.
Expedited Removal: Expand the grounds for quick deportations.